16 Increasing food security and nutrition without clearing forests? – Yes, we can

Integrated, people centred policies and land use as keys for improved food security and nutrition

Organizers: FAO; Korea Rural Community Corporation of Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs of Korea (tbc); Ministry of Environment and Energy of Costa Rica (tbc)


With a global population expected to exceed nine billion by 2050, there are increasing demands for land to satisfy the needs for food, feed, fuel, fibre and environmental services. Even though global rates of deforestation have shown signs of decreasing in the past decade, the annual net loss of forest area was still an average of 3.3 million ha per year between 2010 and 2015, mainly due to agricultural conversion. However, FAO’s State of the World’s Forests (SOFO) 2016 shows that food security and nutrition can be improved without losing more forest. The side event will present the main findings of SOFO 2016 and will showcase two countries (Korea and Costa Rica) that have improved food security and nutrition while increasing their forest cover. A panel of experts will discuss conditions and options for land use planning, governance and practices that create win-win situations for both food security and nutrition, and forests.

Key speakers

Kostas Stamoulis
Assistant Director-General a.i., Economic and Social Development Department, FAO

Eva Muller
Director, Forestry Policy and Resources Division, FAO

Yong Kwan Kim
Director-General, International Affairs Bureau, Korean Forest Service

Giovanna Valverde Stark
Minister Counsellor and Consul General, Embassy of Costa Rica in Italy

Ren Wang
Assistant Director-General, Agriculture and Consumer Protection Department, FAO

Terry Sunderland
Team Leader & Principal Scientist, Sustainable Landscapes and Food Systems, Center for International Forestry Research

Mike May
Vice-President, Public Affairs, Futura Gene-Suzano

Dominique Reeb (Facilitator)
Social Forestry Team Leader, Forestry Policy and Resources Division, FAO  

Main themes/issues discussed

Integrated, people centered policies and land use as keys for improved food security and nutrition

Summary of key points

The current global demographic trajectory foresees the world's population increasing to over nine billion people by 2050, resulting in unprecedented demands for land to meet human and animal needs for food, feed, fuel, fibre and environmental services. A potential trade-off between agriculture and forests could feature prominently in this scenario given that, from 2010 to 2015, agricultural conversion was the principle driver of an average annual net forest area loss of 3.3 million ha. This was despite decreasing global rates of deforestation over the past decade.

However, as FAO's State of the World's Forests (SOFO) 2016 shows, improving food security and nutrition need not come at the expense of forests but, on the contrary, is enhanced by stable forest cover and sustainable forestry. Two countries cited in SOFO 2016 that have achieved this twin objective – Costa Rica and the Republic of Korea – were showcased at the event.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the Republic of Korea was one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world. Deforestation had stripped the country of half its forest cover, contributing to severe erosion, repetitive flood and drought damage and a decrease in agricultural production which threatened national food security. Recognizing the importance of forests’ watershed and soil protection functions in restoring agricultural productivity, the government undertook an intensive forest rehabilitation effort. The implementation of two Ten-Year Forest Rehabilitation Plans in the 1970s and 1980s not only fully restored the country’s forest cover, but also delivered food security benefits and contributed to national economic development. These goals were achieved by integrating forestry, rural development and community mobilization in the rehabilitation policy.

Costa Rica has recently decided to become a “carbon-neutral” country. In Costa Rica, deforestation reached its peak in the 1980s and has since reversed, with forest area increasing from a low point in 2000 to reach nearly 54 percent of the country’s land area in 2015. Stable funding for forests has been provided since 1997 through a system of payments for environmental services (PES) and has played an important role in this regard. PES provided a strategic incentive to farmers (e.g. in coffee, pineapple and livestock sectors) to protect their land. Furthermore, the country has been promoting its Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMA) in the coffee sector, and developing NAMA proposals for livestock and biomass. In particular, the livestock sector being responsible for 1/3 of the country’s GHG emission, the country is promoting, for instance, the increase of tree covers in each farm through silva-pastroal arrangements, better pasture management and conserving more carbon in the soil. Among others, connecting policy to practice at the farmer level, and coffee-producers being part of cooperatives have been key for the country’s successful experience.

The event also provided an opportunity to share the views from research and the private sector. As part of panel discussion, agro-ecological approach and agro-silvopastoral system were addressed as good examples to support agricultural growth without driving deforestation. Mr Wang addressed that more agricultural policies should explicitly promote sustainable intensification of agriculture as their main approach to meeting production objectives.
Mr Sunderland’s research outcome on a statistically significant positive relationship between tree cover and dietary diversity and that fruit and vegetable consumption increases with tree cover until a peak of 45% tree cover and then declines, was also introduced. Indonesia’s oil-palm plantation and Ethiopia’s wheat production cases were used as his research examples to demonstrate the yield drop in areas further away from tree patches, due to decreased pollination services in the case of Indonesia, and limited climate regulation and pest-control in the case of Ethiopia, respectively.

Globally, agriculture remains a main driving forces behind deforestation in the tropics, with commercial and subsistence activities accounting for 40% and 33% respectively.  In Latin America, commercial agriculture is responsible for 70% of deforestation, with beef, soy and sugar cane being the main agricultural commodities. In this context, a recent movement on “deforestation-free commodity production and trade”, a commitment made by private sector, reiterates the fact that it is not only the government, but also the efforts of private sector are key in fighting against deforestation and ensuring sustainable agriculture and food security. In this light, Mr May emphasized that the private sector is indeed part of the problem but is also part of the solution. He introduced “Brazilian Coalition on Climate, Forests and Agriculture” initiative, which is formed by business associations, companies, the civil society, organizations and individuals interested in contributing to the advancement and cooperation in the Brazil's agenda, which includes protection, conservation and sustainable use of forests, sustainable agriculture, and the agenda of mitigation and adaptation to climate change in Brazil and worldwide).

Key outcomes/take away messages

Meeting the world’s increasing demand for food and other landbased products will require highly productive landscapes that are managed sustainably.

Forests are vital for sustainable agriculture and food security, particularly for, carbon sequestration, habitat protection, soil conservation and water cycle.

From 2010 to 2015, agricultural conversion was the principle driver of an average annual net forest area loss of 3.3 million ha.

It is possible to achieve sustainable agriculture, food security and halt deforestation but action is needed:

  1. Effective legal and institutional frameworks
  2. Coordinated forest, agriculture, food, land-use and rural development policies
  3. Secure land tenure and regulation of land-use change
  4. Inter-sectoral collaboration on research, development and extension
  5. Adequate funding and investment to increase agricultural productivity and manage forest sustainably
  6. Stronger involvement of local communities and smallholders
  7. Agroforestry and stronger farm-forest links
  8. Integrated land-use planning